It is usual to feel worried about things from time to time and with good reason. You may be sitting an exam or moving to a new area, for example: the outcomes of these events are important to you, so it is only natural that you might worry about your performance or your situation. You may even experience stress, which is when you worry a lot for a short period of time. When the event has passed, however, you would usually stop worrying about it and carry on with your life.

Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of worry and fear. Again, in certain situations this may well be a natural response. If you feel under threat, for example, then you might experience anxiety as a result, but this is good: your reaction is designed to allow you to respond quickly and keep yourself safe from harm. If this does not pass, or you are experiencing anxiety for no apparent reason, then you should seek help.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feeling overwhelmed or full of dread

  • having trouble sleeping

  • finding it difficult to concentrate

  • heart beating really fast or thinking you’re having a heart attack

  • having a dry mouth

  • trembling

  • wobbly legs

  • getting very hot

A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. It is therefore a type of anxiety disorder.

Phobias are more than just fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.

Some of the most common phobias include:

  • arachnophobia – fear of spiders

  • claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces

  • agoraphobia – fear of open spaces and public places

  • social phobia – fear of social situations

If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause a lot of distress.

Symptoms may include:

  • unsteadiness, dizziness and light-headedness

  • nausea

  • sweating

  • increased heart rate or palpitations

  • shortness of breath

  • trembling or shaking

  • an upset stomach

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. If you have OCD you might think or picture something bad happening and so to stop this happening you might feel the need to do things again and again, such as washing your hands or counting things. This might make you feel better for a short time but soon you will feel worried again and the horrible thoughts will come back. If you think OCD is affecting your life, then talk to your GP. They will be able to help you and refer you to local services.

Where to go for help and advice: